Law enforcement in Florida is not the same depending on where an illegal user of marijuana gets caught according to a recent report. The peninsula state of Florida is very different from its northern to southern tips. Perspectives and the affluence of residents vary considerably in our melting pot state, but does that mean that enforcement of state-wide laws should differ as well? It is challenging for law enforcement to distribute protection equally throughout the state, especially with new laws being put in place and old ones changing.
The legalization of medical marijuana has the potential to simplify the enforcement of laws because there may be less people breaking laws with marijuana. You should only seek a medical marijuana license if you have a condition that qualifies you, but if you do have a medical condition, seeking out a medical marijuana card might simply make taking your medicine rather than continuing to access cannabis illegally. Have you located a doctor near you that could discuss acquiring a medical marijuana card in the state of Florida?
“If you had to describe yourself to people how would you describe yourself?” Reporter Katie LaGrone asked Mikah Sweet.
“Focused, pretty goofy, outgoing, fun,” Sweet said during an interview last month.
Back in May, the 20-year old cook and manager-in-training was caught smoking pot in his car with a friend.
At the time, Sweet had no criminal history.
“He put cuffs on us and detained us while he searched our car,” explained Sweet.
Over the past few years, 16 Florida cities and counties have adopted softer new rules on possession of marijuana, less than 20 grams.
But numbers we obtained show your chance of going to jail or paying just a civil fine really depends on which law enforcement agency catches you with it.
In Alachua County, commissioners were quick to pass an ordinance allowing for citations last year, but has yet to come up with a system to make it work.
“They rushed this to ordinance without an infrastructure so itís just sitting there with no usability for anybody,” said Alachua County Sheriffís spokesman Art Forgey.
“So what good is it?” asked reporter Katie LaGrone.
“Right now, itís no good at all. It looks good on paper and looks good to talk about and commissioners have touted their horn on it but it’s really useless,” he explained.
Raymond Maguire IV of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supports decriminalizing marijuana in Florida and giving a second chance to first time offenders.
“If they stop using time and resources on marijuana possession, they can focus those time and resources on more serious crimes,” he said. “Some law enforcement still have the outdated belief that we need to treat marijuana like a gateway drug which it is not.”
We asked Maguire to review the numbers that show since mid-2015, roughly 6500 marijuana citations were issued in Florida.
While, during the same time frame, we found more than 44,000 people were arrested in Florida. Their only crime at the time, possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana.
Mikah Sweet’s clean criminal history will stay that way. His run-in with Tampa police over pot resulted in a $75 citation and no criminal charges.
“It’s just a citation. Way better than an arrest or criminal charge, I’m thankful for that,’ he said.